31 January 2007


It may be the shortest presidential campaign in history and Joe Biden has himself - and the blogosphere to blame.

Biden started the day by officially telling us on his new Web site what he'd been saying for weeks - he's running for president. No exploratory comittee nonesene. This is it.

Things got trickier after that.

The New York Observer ran a story about Biden in which the Delaware senator criticized the three top dogs in the Democratic race.

Biden attacked his opponents on several fronts, but all three got a blistering for their positions on the Iraq war.

Of Hillary Clinton's plan to cut support for Iraqi troops if no progress is made, Biden was bitingly critical:

"From the part of Hillary's proposal, the part that really baffles me is, `We’re going to teach the Iraqis a lesson.' We're not going to equip them? O.K. Cap our troops and withdraw support from the Iraqis? That's a real good idea."

Of Barack Obama and the war, Biden was dismissive:

“I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”

Of John Edwards, Biden said he just doesn't have a clue about the war:

"John Edwards wants you and all the Democrats to think, 'I want us out of there,' but when you come back and you say, 'O.K., John what about the chaos that will ensue? Do we have any interest, John, left in the region?' Well, John will have to answer yes or no. If he says yes, what are they" What are those interests, John? How do you protect those interests, John, if you are completely withdrawn? Are you withdrawn from the region, John? Are you withdrawn from Iraq, John? In what period?

Then came the real trouble for Biden. In a comment about Obama, which sounds to me that it was meant to be complimentary but came off looking pretty bad, Biden said the following:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."


That set off the Faux News folks and Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge.

But it was not only a case of the right wing "opinion leaders' taking Biden's words out of context and having a field day.

The left wing blogsophere chimed in as well. Including Talking Points Memo, Atrios, and the granddaddy of the all - The Daily Kos.

As ABC News reports, Biden spent the day trying to explain his remarks, while - publicly at least - Obama didn't do much the snuff the fire.

Biden went back to the place where the trouble started, The New York Observer explaining his use of the word "clean" in describing Obama.

"My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as tack. That's the context."
He also told the Observer that he called Obama, and said Obama didn't seem offended.

"So I called Barack and he said 'Joe you don't have to explain anything to me.'"

"Barack Obama is probably the most exciting candidate that the Democratic or Republican Party has produced, at least since I have been around. And he is fresh, he is new, he is insightful, and I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the word 'clean.'"

I'm not sure if this is up there with Al Campanis, the Los Angeles Dodgers executive who lost his job a few years back for making clueless remarks that were deemed racially insensitive. I'm also not sure it's a Jimmy The Greek moment.

But it very well might have the same effect.

Once the blogosphere and the 24-hour newsertainment networks grab on to something like this, there's no telling where it will go. Much of the blogoshpere is taken up by ideologues who bend and twist the facts to fit their purpose. In this case Biden gave them all too much to work with.

And in a post-macaca world, he should have known better.

No comments: